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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

State Agencies Face Additional 10 Percent Cut

Corin Cates-Carney
State Budget Director Dan Villa.

Governor Steve Bullock’s office said today that state agencies must cut their budgets an additional 10 percent, in order to avoid a $227 million budget shortfall within two years.

Those cuts would be in addition to spending reductions that were triggered earlier this month by low revenue results, plus previous cuts to many state agencies included in the two year budget passed last spring.

"The only things exempted in law from these reductions are: The school for the deaf and blind, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, salaries of elected officials, K-12 base aid, and state debt," said State Budget Director Dan Villa.

Villa said all of those entities, except K-12 schools, have been asked for voluntary budget cuts.

Villa today blamed the additional budget cuts on two things. One: A revenue estimate set by state lawmakers that he called “high,” and what he says is shaping up to be the most expensive fire season in state history.

He said the nearly $50 million Montana set aside for firefighting and other emergencies this year will be gone by the end of the week.

Montana’s Republican Party Chair Debra Lamm issued a statement saying it is, “completely unacceptable that Governor Bullock refuses to take responsibility for the fiscal disaster he created."

Lamm called Bullock incompetent and incapable of prioritizing spending.

The Bullock administration and Democratic state lawmakers say their plan to shore up the budget with additional taxes on the wealthy and out of state corporations was rejected by Republican state lawmakers.

No actual cuts will happen for at least a month, while the proposals are reviewed by state lawmakers and legislative fiscal analysts.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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